Hidden Gem: Senior Nikola Traykov

Nikola "Niko" Traykov can flat-out shoot the ball (he hit 97 or 100 free throws) and it won't be long before colleges from around the country find that out. The Bulgarian senior guard has landed at Lebanon High (Pa.) and is already attracting plenty of attention.

When Nikola "Niko" Traykov came to play for the Lebanon High (Pa.) Cedars in early October, coach Paul Blackburn wasted little time in putting him to the test. Each player gets a chance to join the exclusive Cedar Club in which they need to knock down at least 97 of 100 free throws.

It took Traykov less than a week to become just the ninth member of the Cedar Club in Blackburn's 13 years of holding the competition.

Traykov, 18, said that wasn't even close to his best performance, either. The Bulgarian 6-5 senior scoring point guard once knocked down 128 straight foul shots back in his homeland.

``He's got a tremendous vertical and is a good shooter, but he's just learning the American game," Blackburn said. "He's more of a scoring point who needs his shots. He can get to the basket and he jumps out of the gym. Nobody's seen him play live yet."

From the looks of a couple of this season's games on tape, Traykov can knock down the 3-pointer with regularity and also knows how to get the ball to his teammates in spots where they can score. However, he needs to use his athleticism to penetrate more to the basket rather than hanging out on the perimeter and relying on his long-range jumper.

Despite the fact that he's a fairly-unknown commodity and a newcomer to American basketball, the word is starting to spread quickly about the kid who started at the two-guard on the Bulgarian under-20 junior national team.

Georgia, N.C. State, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Iowa State and Penn State have inquired. Others are certain to follow.

``I have no idea where I want to go," Traychov said. "I have to visit a few schools first. I want to play and get a good education. It doesn't matter if I'm in a big city or not, because I'm not here for fun."

Traykov averaged 22.5 points in his first two games at Lebanon before putting up 10 and 9 in the last two contests.

Like many Europeans, Traykov has to learn how to play defense. He also has to pick up some of the different rules in the U.S. – such as a five-second call he had no knowledge of while dribbling in the backcourt last week.

Traykov just sort of fell into Blackburn's lap. Traykov's older brother, who lives in Sofia, Bulgaria, sent e-mails to a few high school athletic directors after doing a search on the internet – and Lebanon's AD replied and the rest is history.

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